02 Jun The Missing Piece To The Modern Caribbean Business Model
At the heart of intellectual property (IP) and its management is the story of imagination and innovation. IP rights allows “creators and owners of inventions, literary and artistic works, designs, symbols, names and images” to benefit morally and financially from their work or investment in a creation. It is classified in two main forms; industrial property and copyright and related rights, and enjoys the same rights as any other property; therefore it can be licensed, bought, sold and protected by law through national intellectual property offices, multi-nation protection offices as is the case with the European Patent Office, the Intellectual Property Office of the United Kingdom, the African Intellectual Property Organization and with the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO).
So why do Caribbean businesses need to integrate intellectual property management into their overall business strategy. Caribbean businesses create new ideas and services, leverage traditional knowledge, develop brands and products and produce new IT or production processes through their research and development and more progressively through incentive programs for employee ideas. These are assets that progress economies and create new revenue streams for business; and like our more globally recognised music and other artistic expressions, sporting personalities and cuisine, innovations of businesses should be seen as a competitive advantage.
One famous regional example of how businesses can benefit from “branded products protected through intellectual property rights” is the Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee brand. The Coffee Industry Board (CIB) of Jamaica leveraged the traditional knowledge of coffee cultivation, manufacturing processes and geographic location to standardise, trademark and grant authentication certifications to genuine Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee. As part of their IP management strategy, the CIB registered and now owns certification, community and trademarks with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the European Union and Intellectual Property Office of the United Kingdom. They are also actively pursuing geographic indicator designation (“a geographical indication is a sign used on goods that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation due to that place of origin”) for the Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee which will link Blue Mountain Coffee exclusively to Jamaica although the marketing and branding has in part already accomplished this.
These efforts have translated into significant business return for the board and brand; 2006 reports suggest that “the average price of Jamaica Blue Mountain roasted coffee was US$43.44 per pound as compared to a price tag of US$3.17 per pound for average retail roasted coffee”.
Sadly similar attempts to develop a globally robust brand have arguably not proved as successful for the Grenada Nutmeg and Trinidad and Tobago Cocoa.
Identify your Intellectual Property: Businesses seeking to replicate the Jamaica Blue Mountain success and benefit from intellectual property rights should firstly identify the form of IP and the value chain surrounding them; if the creation is a new variety of plant, production process, equipment or technical solution, industrial design or layout design (topographies) of integrated circuit, it can be protected and recognised as patents for inventions, trademarks, industrial designs or geographical indications. If the creation is written, performed or recorded, visually displayed either drawn, broadcasted or in any other way visually represented these are protected under the copyright designation.
Allocate resources for Intellectual Property Management: Secondly, businesses must allocate resources for the commercialization, protection and overall management of the creation and must be able to answer: Do we want to commercialise and protect this creation? How do we wish to commercialise the creation – branded through licensing or direct sales? Is there someone or a unit within the organisation responsible for IP management eg a business development officer, IP manager or marketing executive or department? Is there an IP management budget for registration of copyrights or patents, cyber and competitive monitoring, legal fees for licensing agreements and infringement filing? How do we value our IP asset for negotiations? Have we undertaken the appropriate due diligence?
Develop an Intellectual Property Policy and Strategy: Thirdly, once these questions are answered, businesses should develop an IP policy governing how the IP assets are to be used and a strategy that defines which assets to exploit, where and how it is to be exploited and protected. The policy and strategy should not be seen as a silo but as an integral part of the business’ strategy and as part of the overall organisational culture of doing business. Operations, production, marketing, accounting, human resources, administration and legal must share collective understanding of and responsibility for the business’ IP.
Regardless of whether a business decides to integrate IP management into their overall business strategy, there will remain threats to the business from cyber squatters seeking to disrupt a business’ online presence by using similar domain names; undervalued intangible assets during licensing or partnership negotiations and ultimately brand protection in new markets. New products and services will continue to enter the market driven by rapid technology changes. The WIPO statistics of 2014 – 215,000 global applications were filed under the WIPO’s Patent Cooperation Treaty a 4.5% increase over 2013; 47,885 international trademark applications were filed under the WIPO-administered Madrid System representing a 2.3% growth over 2013; while 14,441 designs were filed under the international industrial design Hague System representing a 9.6% growth, suggest that companies are using the IP rights protection system as part of an overall business strategy.
Governments and business associations must encourage IP management as an integrated part of business strategy to encourage creativity and innovation.
It is important to note that each business’ IP will be different and the strategy to exploit and protect the IP must be tailored to the vision, needs, partnerships, operating environment and resources available to it.
Source: World Intellectual Property Office – http://www.wipo.int/portal/en/